Going without Google

This article on Zen Habits caught my eye today. Basically it’s about going without Google. Having done basically the same thing about a week ago, I thought I’d share how I went through the process.

The reason I decided to close my Google account was for the same reason as Leo (from Zen Habits). I don’t like the idea of a single corporation having access to all our personal data, no matter how “Don’t Be Evil” they are.

Gmail: I hadn’t been using Gmail for a few months anyway. I use the mail server on my web host, and download it via POP to Outlook on my desktop. I don’t care much about IMAP; if I’m on the move I don’t care about my email.

Calendar/Reader: For these I also use Outlook. For calendar, Outlook is second to none (basically, it was designed for corporate scheduling). For RSS, it’s less than ideal, but it’s decent. It’s nice to have it all in one program. If you don’t have Outlook, Thunderbird will do the same thing for free (and has better support for GPG to boot).

Search: Unfortunately I’m still a sucker for Google search. Along with all the sites Leo tried, I also used Dogpile. None of them even come close. Without an account however, Google only really can store my IP. Since I have a dynamic IP address and I’m behind a NAT router, that isn’t very useful.

Maps: Another hard one. There isn’t really an alternative (Microsoft’s solution within Bing is awful). I just use it without an account. Same functionality, less data stored by Google.

Other Google services: I never used them. I use Firefox, not Chrome. I use Word and Excel, not Google Docs. I use Facebook to share my photos.

You’ll notice in that last sentence there I mentioned Facebook. You may have read my essay Why I no longer use Facebook…, and in which case are wondering why I went back. The answer is simple. Within my circle of contacts, no Facebook equals no social life. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen with Google.

Back at University

Today, seeing that I haven’t done so for a while now, comes an update on my life.

I’ve just started my second year at university. My degree is supposed to be three years long, but I’ll stretch it out to three and a half because I failed stuff bigger is better. I’m still doing computing. This year comes one of the units I’ve eagerly anticipated: Algorithms. It’s programming in C, finally, after a year of Java. Also comes a not-so anticipated unit, ICT Project Management. It’s as dull as it sounds.

I’m not really sure why I’m at university. Mostly just because I can’t figure out anything else worth doing. I could go get a job, but having done that before, university seems much easier. I enjoy playing around with computers and programming, but I’m not quite confident that I really want a job as a programmer… I should probably figure that out soonish.

After resigning from Principal Computers again before I left to move to Berlin in July last year (which I ended up not doing, sadly enough), I’m now back there working Saturdays again. And I still jump every time the phone rings. Talk about Pavlov’s dog.

I’ve started playing around with Cisco networking gear again. This time I’ve got a 3550 switch, which strangely enough is more of a 24-port router than a switch. It can do some weird and wonderful things. I can’t wait to do the networking unit at university.